Looking for half-term inspiration that avoids the airport? These are some of the best family breaks that you can take in the UK this February.
1. Roman relics
February might seem a chilly time to visit Hadrian’s Wall and explore the exposed forts at Housesteads and Birdoswald, but it will give the children an insight into the Roman experience of guarding this remote outpost through the winter months. The Roman Army and Vindolanda museums, open daily from Feb 9, display some fascinating finds such as tablets recording everyday events during the occupation, as well as complaints about the British weather.
Springwell Cottage near Hexham, sleeping six people, costs £795 for seven nights self-catering. From Feb 16 2019. National Trust Cottages (nationaltrust.org.uk).
2. Wilderness hideaways
Taking the children to a simple, cosy hideaway in a woodland setting sounds idyllic but it can help to have some organised activities to dip into, in winter especially. Forest Holidays has 10 sites around the country providing hideaway cabins and tree houses which sleep from two to 10 people, equipped with hot tubs and wood-burning stoves. Optional activities may include forest ranger adventures, archery, cycling and watersports depending on the site. Beddgelert, in Snowdonia National Park, is among the most scenic spots.
Golden Oak cabin in Beddgelert, sleeping four, from £795 for three nights. From Feb 15 2019. Forest Holidays (forestholidays.co.uk).
3. All-weather sailors
Outdoor-minded families have a choice of two Royal Yachting Association (RYA) sailing courses departing from Portsmouth, run by watersports specialist Sunsail. Both are suitable for beginners: a shorter two-day course for adults and children aged from eight years, and a longer five-day course for those aged 12 and above. The price includes on-board accommodation, mooring fees and tuition. One-day taster courses are also available.
RYA Start Yachting £796 for two nights; RYA Competent Crew £1,916 for five nights, half-board, based on a family of up to five people. From Feb 15, 18 and 22 2019. Sunsail (sunsail.co.uk).
4. Capture the castle
Not all luxury hotels actively welcome families but Augill Castle near Kirkby Stephen in Cumbria caters for all ages. A cinema room and library with books, games and toys provides indoor entertainment if the weather closes in and 20 acres of grounds includes a playground and tennis court. A Little Cooks School offers four-hour cookery classes to children aged from six to their teens, with half-term sessions still available to book.
Augill Castle costs from £240 per night based on interconnecting rooms for a family of four, including breakfast. Cookery classes £65. From Feb 15 2019 (stayinacastle.com).
5. A fresh look at Edinburgh
A compact centre combined with family-friendly sightseeing and shopping makes this city an ideal place to take older children. Top indoor sights for families include Edinburgh Castle, the National Museum of Scotland and the Scottish National Gallery which has drop-in events for families; and The Elephant House café at 21 George IV Bridge is where J K Rowling worked on the Harry Potter series. If the weather is clement, climb Arthur’s Seat for panoramic city views.
Apartment sleeping up to four people, from £182 for two nights, self-catering. Breakfast £13 (adult), £6.50 (child). From Feb 18 2019. Aparthotel Adagio Edinburgh Royal Mile (adagio-city.com).
6. Wildlife sleepover
Book your children in for a big-cat sleepover at Port Lympne, near Ashford in Kent, an animal reserve which works closely with the Aspinall Foundation, a conservation charity. The reserve provides a home for giraffes, bears, gorillas, rhinos and zebras and some endangered species. On-site family accommodation ranges from simple wooden camping pods and treehouses to lodges set beside tigers, wolves and rhino, plus the new Lion Lodge, sleeping four, which opens next month next to the lion habitat.
Pinewood Pod, sleeping four people, from £567 for three nights, self-catering. From Feb 15 or 18 2019. Port Lympne Hotel and Reserve (aspinallfoundation.org).
7. Forest frolics
The Center Parcs formula works well for families looking for self-catered privacy in rural settings combined with a full-on programme of activities to suit all ages and weather conditions. School holidays are busy across all five UK “villages” but a selection of two-bedroom lodges at Sherwood Forest is still up for grabs. Use of the indoor pool is included in the price; other activities, including archery, cycle hire and nature walks, cost extra.
Woodland Lodge at Sherwood Forest, sleeping four, from £699 for three nights. From Feb 15 2019. Center Parcs (centerparcs.co.uk).
8. Gardens of Eden
February isn’t usually the best month for horticultural days out but the Eden Project’s giant, domed, plant-filled biomes near St Austell remain balmy year-round. A Passport to the World event runs Feb 16–24, offering families the chance to visit five continents in one day, collecting passport stamps en route. Travel from tropical rainforest to Arctic landscapes in a matter of minutes, with drop-in storytelling, craft activities and flamenco workshops along the way.
YHA Eden Project from £128, room only, for two nights based on a family of four sharing a Snoozebox room. Youth Hostels Association (yha.org.uk), Eden Project (edenproject.com).
9. Miniature trainspotters
Best suited to families with small children, Drayton Manor Theme Park near Tamworth has a Thomas & Friends event running throughout the half-term weeks in its Thomas Land area (Feb 9–24). This includes live shows on Knapford Station with the Fat Controller and a selection of gentle family rides (thrill rides are closed during this period). The 15-acre zoo is home to birds, mammals and reptiles including resident turtles Tommy and Tammy.
Drayton Manor Hotel from £154 per night, based on a family room sleeping four, including breakfast and a day pass. Drayton Manor (draytonmanor.co.uk).
10. Victorian games
The workshops and activity sessions offered at UK heritage sites can make a great day out for families looking for fun during the school holidays. Some of these properties give you the option of staying overnight in a range of accommodation. English Heritage lets out three family-friendly properties in the grounds of Osborne House, Queen Victoria’s former holiday home on the Isle of Wight, where a programme of traditional Victorian games runs daily between 10am and 3pm, Feb 18–22.
No 1 Sovereign’s Gate, sleeps four, from £650 for four nights, on a self-catering basis. Available from Feb 18 2019. English Heritage (english-heritage.org.uk).